US attorney on McDonnell sentence: ‘No one is above the law’

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Federal prosecutors said they were pleased with the sentence handed down in the corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia,  and Adam S. Lee, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, spoke after the governor was sentenced Tuesday afternoon.

“No one is above the law," said Boente. "Not a high public official, not even the highest public official in the state."

Boente said he thinks McDonnell's two-year sentence sends a message that "when the FBI finds that there’s public corruption, that we will prosecute the case vigorously."

Regarding the double immunity deal for donor Jonnie Williams, which was a question posed by former Governor Doug Wilder to Judge Spencer during Tuesday's hearing,  Boente said prosecutors did the best the could.

"Our job is to prosecute the case in the best way we can," Boente said. "We do give credit for cooperation to people and it was important to prosecute the public official, who is always the main target in these investigations."

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RELATED: Former Gov. Bob McDonnell sentenced to 2 years in prison |  After thanking judge for fairness, McDonnell vows to appeal verdict

Leslie R. Caldwell, the Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said that McDonnell corrupted the most powerful office in Virginia.

“Taking bribes in exchange for official actions is not politics as usual—it is an insidious crime that strikes at the heart of public service and will not be tolerated," Caldwell said  in a statement.

Adam S. Lee, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, said that the McDonnell case was about dishonesty and corruption.

”As I’ve said before, public corruption is the FBI’s highest criminal investigative priority and we will respond to any credible allegation of a public official subverting the public’s trust for their personal gain," Lee said.

From a news release from U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia:

Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, were convicted following a jury trial of one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right.  Robert McDonnell was also convicted of three counts of honest-services wire fraud and six counts of obtaining property under color of official right, while Maureen McDonnell was convicted of two counts of honest-services wire fraud and four counts of obtaining property under color of official right.  In total, Robert McDonnell was convicted of 11 of 13 counts and Maureen McDonnell was convicted of eight of 13 counts.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from April 2011 through March 2013, the McDonnells participated in a scheme to use the former governor’s official position to enrich themselves and their family members by soliciting and obtaining payments, loans, gifts and other things of value from Star Scientific and Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The McDonnells obtained these items in exchange for the former governor performing official actions to legitimize, promote and obtain research studies for Star’s products, including the dietary supplement Anatabloc.

According to evidence presented at trial, the McDonnells obtained from Williams more than $170,000 in direct payments as gifts and loans, thousands of dollars in golf outings, and numerous items. As part of the scheme, Robert

McDonnell arranged meetings for Williams with Virginia government officials, hosted and attended events at the Governor’s Mansion designed to encourage Virginia university researchers to initiate studies of Star’s products and to promote Star’s products to doctors, contacted other Virginia government officials to encourage Virginia state research universities to initiate studies of Star’s products, and promoted Star’s products and facilitated its relationships with Virginia government officials.

The evidence further showed that the McDonnells attempted to conceal the things of value received from Williams and Star to hide the nature and scope of their dealings with Williams from the citizens of Virginia by, for example, routing gifts and loans through family members and corporate entities controlled by the former governor to avoid annual disclosure requirements.
Maureen McDonnell is scheduled to be sentenced on February 20, 2015.